Watch This Sweet Video of Julia Child Talking About the Fear of Failure

updated Feb 24, 2021
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Credit: Rick Friedman/Getty Images

If you’ve killed your sourdough starter, and never quite figured out the best way to prepare the 20 pounds of beans you ordered, Julia Child might just have the message you need to hear right now: “If you’re not going to be ready to fail, you’re not going to learn to cook.”

A clip from an episode of her television show popped up on Reddit giving everyone who’s ever faced a kitchen disaster the reminder that screwing up is a part of the process. It’s a message that the woman who changed careers late in life, and fearlessly pioneered the art of cooking on live television (with the occasional screwup, never to any detriment) was living proof of her own statement.

“A lot of people are so scared of any recipe they see that says sugar, syrup, or caramel,” she notes at the beginning of the clip. They take one look at those and say they won’t try anything like it, something she describes as “this awful American syndrome of fear of failure,” and that if you have that fear, “you’re just never going to learn to cook.” That’s because, in her wisest moment, she says “cooking is one failure after another and that’s how you learn.”

Instead, she recommends developing what the French call je m’en foutisme, or an “I don’t care” attitude. “The sky can fall, omelettes can go all over the stove, I’m going to learn,” she declares powerfully. “I shall overcome.” 

Throughout her show, Julia’s encouraging attitude gave (and still gives) American cooks the confidence to try new things, to toss those omelettes in the air, to stir up caramel or whatever it was she showed that day, and a big part of that was this sort of encouragement accept if things went wrong.

Of course, the only downside right now is that when things get too bad, you can’t just go out to eat instead.